divided cloth

Antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the principle of the divided cloth

Before I talk of a divided cloth, let me address the antisemitic events. Last September I was turned away at the door of a fringe event at the Labour conference because I was a ‘known Zionist’. Last summer as I sat to eat a meal with my wife and eleven-year-old son during a day out at the PalestineExpo I was approached by security and asked to leave. I was treated like a criminal. My ‘unwelcome’ presence had been ‘reported’ by Labour Party members.

I have been de-registered from an event at Parliament because I am a ‘Zionist’ and at Warwick University I was recently turned away from an event with feeble excuses about a ‘PREVENT’ strategy. These however remain oddities in a long line of events I have witnessed over that past few years. If I am recognised once successfully inside, I am treated as a pariah. I have my photo taken, I am ‘accidentally’ nudged, I have abuse hurled at me.

It is not the only reason I identify with the recent story about Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitic attack on Richard Millett.

The Zoo animals

I have witnessed far too many events where I have seen both Richard Millett and Jonathan Hoffman treated disgracefully. As someone who researches antisemitism online, I have also seen that abuse frequently carried over into social media. These two posts about Richard were shared by two well-known antisemites:

Richard Millett

Only those who have been to these events can truly understand how it feels to be inside one. You become an object of hate and ridicule. All Jews do. Antisemites are all around, each speaker trying to outdo the other and the more vivid the hatred of Jews, the louder the applause. Whether on campus or in parliament, the system is set up to protect the hate. If you protest, you will be evicted. There are feelings of helplessness and at times despondency and depression.

Vilified and vindicated

Sadly only a few Jewish people have been doing this circuit, Richard longer than most. Each of us have our own methods and in several cases our differences have allowed us to benefit from each other. Richard’s questions probe, Jonathan’s outbursts provoke or distract and my silence leaves me more unnoticed than most. Nothing though creates a better feeling than seeing the others in the room. I know this because those times I have felt the worst, were all the times I was the only Jew there.

Yet through all this I have seen an almost rejectionist approach from many in the community. As if what we were doing was self-harming. There was a head-in-the-sand attitude as if everything was under control and Jonathan or Richard were the problem. I have lost count of the number of times I saw these people fight against antisemitism only to face some backlash over their behaviour the following day.

Suddenly the tone has changed. The method of videoing, writing about and archiving records of the antisemitism we have witnessed, has entirely altered the narrative. Almost every piece of evidence of antisemitism that has been brought to light over the last three years was found, witnessed or recorded by a grassroots activist who was out there, fighting against antisemitism, publicly or anonymously.

Last year one of the Jewish community newspapers actually ran a parody of Jonathan Hoffman. A man who has barely lost a day in a perpetual fight against those that mean us harm. The paper actually mocked him.

Everyone knows now, what I have known all along. What Richard was filming, what Jonathan was arguing against, was a virus that was spreading. A disease that has come to pose a real and present danger to us all. If we could go back in time, wouldn’t we all go back to help them?  Maybe if there had been more Jonathans and more Richards, we would have made enough noise, captured enough footage, rocked enough boats, for it to have made a difference before Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the opposition.

Instead we let this virus spread, even as some Jewish people were at the coal face, warning us all it was coming.

How did we get here?

Today we face the possibility of a deeply antisemitic government in the UK. Of a cult of street-wise fascist Jew-haters controlling the dialogue.

As I was doing some research that involved one of the anti-Israel activists, I came across a story from the University of Cambridge in 2010. Historian Benny Morris had been invited by the ‘Israel Society’ to give a talk. Anti-Israel activist Ben White set up a Facebook Page to oppose the talk and without much resistance, the Israel Society caved. Not only did they back down, they even apologised for inviting him in the first place.

The problem was that some people found Morris ‘offensive’.  Apparently Morris ‘has expressed Islamophobic and racist sentiments towards Arabs and Muslims.’

Now the point here is not whether or not you find Morris’s words offensive or disagree with his political position. The question is how does this work the other way around? Do anti-Israel groups cancel events because Jewish people find the speakers antisemitic? Of course not. We ceded Morris and received Pappe in return.

To explain the problem properly I need to introduce the principle of the divided cloth.

The divided cloth

The principle is based on a story from the Talmud, but I first came across the story when reading Jabotinsky’s ‘Ethics of the Iron Wall‘.

Two people walking along the road find a piece of cloth. One of them says: ” I found it. It is mine:” But the other says: ” No: that is not true: I found the cloth, and it is mine: ” The judge to whom they appeal cuts the cloth in two, and each of these obstinate folk gets half. But there is another version of this action. It is only one of the two claimants who is obstinate: the other, on the contrary, has determined to make the world wonder at this magnanimity.

So he says: “We both found the cloth, and therefore I ask only a half of it, because the second belongs to B. But B. insists that he found it, and that he alone is entitled to it. In this case, the Talmud recommends a wise Judgment, that is, how very disappointing to our magnanimous gentleman. The judge says: “There is agreement about one half of the cloth. A. admits that it belongs to B. So it is only the second half that is in dispute. We shall, therefore divide this into two halves: And the obstinate claimant gets three-quarters of the cloth, while the gentleman” has only one quarter, and serve him right. It is a very fine thing to be a gentleman, but it is no reason for being an idiot.

When Jabotinsky wrote this, there can be little doubt that Trans-Jordan was fresh in his mind, yet as I look across the Jewish landscape, in the UK, in the US and of course in Israel, I see the relevance of this principle everywhere.

What we cede out of our willingness to be magnanimous, what we give up in our desire to appear accommodating is lost if there is no reciprocity. It will never do anything but create a recipe for disaster in a situation such as the one facing Israel and the Jews. If the other side are radical Islamic ideologies and rabid Jew haters, then the 50% you cede is gone. You are left standing on or beyond your red line, negotiating over what little remains.

And without correction, the situation will continue to deteriorate. Jewish progressive movements will continually push the red line as the ‘new point for negotiations’ chases after the tail of those radical Islamic organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. At its core, the entire Oslo process was a real life example of the divided cloth. Every one of the major negotiation points (such as Jerusalem and the refugees) was ‘off the table’. Israel ceded and got nothing in return. Today, Gaza is a Hamas stronghold. Palestinian activists tour our universities supporting a movement (BDS) that calls for the destruction of Israel. All the while, small organisations of Israelis, supported by the writings of those like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, move closer to the Hamas position.

Israel and Diaspora

Israel is more fortunate than the Diaspora. The enemy is as real as the threat and the luxury of fantastical thought is too often interrupted by terrorists to pose much of a threat to the society. When you live next door to Hamas and Hezbollah, reality explodes too often to allow you to forget what it looks like. This is not the case in the Diaspora.

For decades, Jews in the Diaspora have ceded ground to their enemies. There are milestones such as 1982, 1987, 2000 and 2014 but in reality it is a slowly shifting environment. In the 1990’s we bought into the idea that the Palestinian leadership was capable of delivering peace. Decades ago we stop protecting the word ‘Zionism’ because it ‘offended’ others. Today our ‘progressives’ say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists. Of course there is outrage, of course there is a backlash. But another red line has been crossed and without us realising it, the ‘tolerance levels’ of the entire community have been raised again.

The result of our inability to stand our ground surrounds us and has impacted globally how Israel and Zionism is perceived. When you enter a high street bookshop, there will be two types of books on the conflict available, the anti-Israel ideology and the Zionist apology. These are our high-streets and this is where we sit now, stuck negotiating with a lie. We allowed this to happen because we want others to consider us the ‘nice guys’. Yet in our schools, universities and councils this is now where the discussion lies, half way between the the anti-Israel ideology and the Zionist apology.

If you don’t fit this narrative you will be labelled an extremist and ostracised by a community unwilling to defend you. The enemy call everyone they don’t like an extremist or a racist and nobody labelled an extremist or racist will be defended by a community that seeks to appear magnanimous. The result is university debates where the students are introduced to one of two positions, stuck between anti-Israel hate and a Zionist apology. There are no voices left defending Israel. If one is booked, petitions are mounted and the voice is silenced. We allowed this situation to develop.

Parts of mainstream Jewish Diaspora are now sitting on the very edge of Zionist thought. Once our community gave up half the cloth, the minds of our youth became vulnerable, lost in the mid space. But once you shift, the movement continues. At Limmud I heard a Yachad activist argue that anti-Zionists should also be represented on the BOD. Once the starting position is a shifting red line, everything becomes lost.

In a battle of ‘progressive’ v ‘regressive’ the progressives will lose. You can only edge so close to the cliff face before eventually you fall. As a community we need to take action to reclaim some of the ground we lost and learn the lessons about how our own actions are partially responsible for the position we all find ourselves in. The rise of antisemitism is directly linked to our failure to maintain a coherent position in the face of an onslaught. What we tolerated in the sewer is now on the street and our enemies still want us gone.



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52 thoughts on “Antisemitism, anti-Zionism and the principle of the divided cloth

    1. I don’t do hateful or disrespectful (well maybe I am guilty of the disrespect part, but only on those occasions I believe it justified). The starting point is the source – Electronic Intifada. An outlet that I know has made up stuff about me and called me racist in an attempt to offset the damage I do. That is what EI does. It is part of a propaganda media machine.

      Secondly the thrust of the argument in the article is this. A tiny group of non-Jews may be antisemites but for the truly antisemitic position we have to look at the Jews. They are the real antisemites. And if we seek to create a definition of antisemitism we need to include clauses that explicitly point out that most antisemitism is coming from the Jews.

      I am not going to agree with Massad’s position, nor his conclusions. We can argue all day over what is or is not antisemitism, but if you reach a point where you are trying to shift the blame of antisemitism onto the victims themselves, I don’t think it is a position deserving of anything but scorn. It suits the general tone of Electronic Intifada.

    2. Electronic Intifada (EI) is virulently anti-Israel. That they use a writer that is proficient with words and language to make the unpleasant seem like the most desireable of arguments, is not surprising.

      Most Jews support Israel; but this author almost criminalises that fact. This writer has made what is acceptable to all other communities a crime for Jews. For Jews to have the temerity to have a homeland is a racist crime in his viewpoint.
      If Jews had been treated the same as all other citizens in the lands they resided in, having a Jewish country would have never been neccessary; but because Jews have been vilified and expelled and murdered for being Jews, it became neccessary to reclaim our Jewish peoplehood and statehood in the place that our history is written.

      Jews relied on our host nations to protect us as citizens, but mostly these host nations turned on us Jews for political or other expedient reasons.
      So we, as Jews, recreated the Jewish state as the only state in the world where Jews no longer need to rely on the magnanimity of non-Jews for our safety.

      Jews resurected the ancient ‘Homeland’ in the only place that has any historical and religous significance for us; and if the EI articles author has any problem with that, then he falls into that racistly bigoted anti-Jewish camp which dictates that any Jewish love for Israel is racist

    3. The problem with the EI article is that although it sounds well reasoned, every sentence has a counterpoint: Truly, every single sentence. Who has time to expound? (Anti-Israelism is a clean-up op: anyone gets to make any accusation; then you are obligated to defend yourself….think frivolous lawsuit).

      However, these are useful guidelines to vet any given argument:

      1) LACK OF PRECISION: Are vague terms used? (Example: The very premise of the article is: “Much…debate…centers on…opposition to Israeli laws…” What does “much” mean? 30%? 50%? It matters. Note he doesn’t even say “most”.

      2) SUBSTANTIATION: Where’s your data? Gotta a survey to substantiate “the majority…who condemn”? Anything?

      2) CONTEXT: Are you looking at Israel in global context, or are you ONLY looking at Israel? Israel practices discrimination but you’re mum on Saudi Arabia? Yet you insist you’re motivated by justice, not Jew-hatred? Seriously? How about historical context? Wanna argue that anti-Semitism is yesteryear? Okay; document for me when and how this momentous turnaround happened, after 2500 years. (Remarkably, the article calls out Winston Churchill and Lord Balfour — *supporters* of Israel! — as closet anti-Semites, then proceeds to argue that Israel’s *critics* are pure of heart?!!

      3) TERMINOLOGY: Israel has already lost this one, so it is hard to spot. But actually every term in the debate is open to question, from “Palestinian” (certain Arabs are so-named only since the 1960s. How so, if they’re an ancient people?) to “Occupation” (technically disputed territory, as exists in many other places).

      WHEN DID YOU STOP BEATING YOUR WIFE? Remember that joke? This pretty much sums up what pro-Israelis must respond to. But there is much online info for anyone truly interested in both sides. I recommend memri.org, palwatch.org, and historical news archives to start.

    1. These people are not maniacs Stephen and that strategy of labeling everyone who stands up for Israel, a maniac and extremist or a racist, in an effort to ostracise them, is one of the central elements described in the blog. On those terms the only permissible debate is between someone accusing Jews of all manner of crimes and a Jew begging to be allowed to survive despite being guilty of all he stands accused of.

      1. Who has accused everyone that stands up for Israel a maniac or a racist ?

        You see the time in question, say 2008 to 2014, was ” my time ” in the sense of paying detailed attention. The Three Mupperteers were centre stage although they have been largely displaced by the arrival of the young Turks, Gnasher Jew, Falter , Cobbs, Dennison etc. These people leapt onto the scene when the ” mainstream orgs ” started making significant money available to the ” grass roots ” .At least the old guard are not mercenary opportunists, and are ideological racists, and do it for love not material reward.

        The fact is that generation of goons, Hoff, Millett, Klaff, Harv etc, are head banging racist crazies, and there is such a wealth of evidence of this it is unarguable.

        And to repeat your close association with the very worst elements that ” stand up for Israel” will be the metaphorical death of you .

        1. Mr Bellamy is the resident troll. The problem is that we, including me, give Stephen too much attention. He is an antisemitic narcissist, who regards himself to be a superior fellow in every respect. Bellamy is rude, disrespectful, arrogant and above all, has a problem with Jews.

          Stephen is a buffoon, but nevertheless, an antisemite with too much time on his hands. Rather than volunteer for good, Stephen trolls Jewish websites. Stephen’s life revolves around Jews. He cannot exist without Jews. Stephen’s world has no meaning without Jews. Of course, his relationship with Jews is perverse, obsessional and pathological.

        2. Stephen
          The more hysterical you are, the more calm and collected David becomes. His replies are measured and polite. You don’t deserve it .Truth is it’s uncomfortable watching this uneven contest between an intellect and an individual who peddles nothing but gratuitous insults. Every time you venture here you get a proverbial kicking. Quit while you are behind for your own self respect.

  1. David

    An excellent piece

    Your use of the piece of cloth, and how it is divided, is a perfect example of why we Jews find ourselves in this predicament today.

    I have just finished reading a book written in 1938 that says much the same as what you are saying; that our continuous deference and politeness to our enemies, does us a big disservice.
    Our community leaders then were so frightened of rocking the boat, that they refused to stand up for the Jews of Mandatory Palestine and the Jews of Europe

    The results after 1938 were the Holocaust ( where the UK went against the the terms of the Balfour Declaration and issued the White Paper that effectively contributed to the murders of millions of Jews)

    1. always interested in reading contemporary writing from the 20’s and 30’s. Is it a book you would recommend?

      1. ‘The Rape of Palestine’ by William Ziff [pp451-2] [p453] [pp475-6] [p515]. A very intense book, where he tries to detail the perfidity of British Mandatory officials and the Foreign and Colonial office and their attempts to thwart the terms of the Mandate in the face of Jewish appeasement. Also deals with Jews in the dispora

        1. Ah, yes, this one I have on my shelf. I have it because I think you have recommended it before. It is one of a few I have bought recently that I need to read. Thank you.

  2. You’d threatened to flounce for the umpteenth time Bellers. So much so that that weirdo Chris Summatorother commented on social media that “Even Stephen Bellamy has given up”. I tried to tell him that you’d said it was just the taking part that counted but he wouldn’t have it and went on about Welsh miners for a bit. This must be your post flounce period.

    1. Nah Ian I don’t flounce. I stopped bothering when David was just copying and pasting the same post over and over. Now he has found something new to say, particularly when it has taken us into an area in which I I have an almost unique level of expertise…..

      Maybe one day YOU might have something to say instead of forever reacting to me…….

  3. Spot on, David. And that is why I am a Jabotinskian Zionist, determined that Jews should never ever apologise even in the most roundabout way for being Zionists, and never cede an inch.

  4. Bellers you non flouncing flouncer. We agreed our roles here some time ago. Anyway I’ve got a hilarious Mr/Mrs Stephen skit that I’ve been waiting to post. Might do it this week now you’ve de-flounced you crazy kid.

  5. I run everything by Mrs Stephen. Wouldn’t want to cause her any offence. Poor dear’s suffering enough.

  6. I am grateful to David for this article. The sheer volume of pro-Palestine events often leaves me in a ‘stuck for choice’ decision. In the 9 odd years I have been active, what has changed has been the centres of pro-Palestine meetings. Amnesty International was a constant source of meetings. This has died away dramatically in the last 5 years. What has not changed and has actually got worse is the rage and anger that rumbles at these meetings.no doubt due to the rise of Corbyn from back-bench to leader of the Labour Party.

    To reiterate the essence of David’s article, I went to the meeting at Conway Hall on Tuesday 21st of August, signed in, sat down, and waited for the proceedings to start. 5 minutes later, I am surrounded by 5 security personnel who ask me to leave. I ask ‘Why?’. No answer was forthcoming. Finally, when I am safely in the street, I am told I am a ‘disruptor’. No, I am a Jewish Zionist that is on a list of activists that may question the brain-washing session to ensue.

    Brain-washed they were at 9 pm. I was outside for the 2 hours and when the meeting ended, I watched them file out with eyes glazed and immune to sounds of speech such as; ‘How was the meeting?’ from myself. Truly bizarre. I have never seen this effect before…except in films about Zombies.

  7. Bellers; But you are ok with Simon Cobbs et al going to long suffering Paris o:)

    Me; Who’s he, another of your personal grudges?

    Bellers; I’ve told you I don’t do personal grudges, but I know more about him than his own wife
    Me; Right. Definitely no personal grudges there then
    Bellers; You haven’t got the first fuckin’ clue….oh you know the rest

    Me; I’ve got Mrs S on the line. She says your lunch is on the table. Close the shed door behind you and put your slippers on before you come in.

    Bellers; You’re fuckin’ nuts.

    Thought it’d be easier to do your lines as well. I know them by heart now. Everyone does.

    1. Is that it ? I was so looking forward to it too.

      Psstt Simon doesn’t have a wife. In order to get a wife he would have to approach the environs of a synagogue with him being so heavily invested in being a G-d spelling Orthodox Jew. He won’t do that cuz he would be sussed in a nano second.

      Ian if you want to play you need to get better informed. As it is you don’t have the remotest fucking clue what is going on

      1. Anyway

        Gnasher said, why are you investing so much time in that hopeless fruit cake Sooze ?

        I said , Gnash I can’t fix the whole world, but I can fix one foot and a half long sentient being.

        He said, is that like its not the winning that counts but the taking part?

        I said, yeah but don’t tell Ian

        He said, Jesuz fucking wept.

    1. Keep rotating the six slogans though or it really will seem like its just the taking part that counts…..oops, seven slogans.

        1. …and eight. Forgot that one. If you ever worked out what you’re doing here you could make a ninth then I remembered “I know what I mean but I’m not telling” Number Nine in Bellers Bingo.

          ‘Bellers Bingo’ Hmmm….could be a cool Wednesday Nighter down the virtual boozer as a fundraiser to support the site. We could get one of your mates like Squiffy or Squodgy to pick random posts from your archive and call the slogans. There’s at least one in every post. Nice Tin of Watneys Party Seven for the winner and all residual profits to ‘the cause’. This could be big.

  8. I hugely admire everything you do. I feel as passionately about this subject as you do, it’s rarely out of my thoughts. Thanks for doing what I could never be brave enough to do.

  9. I spend a lot of time reading various comments sections online on a vast array of websites and always find that your commenters (not all) disappoint the most!

    1. This is a very fair observation if your expectation was a thread of comments from normal people making reasonable remarks and exchanging views in a civilised way. This has never been the nature of this section. It is almost entirely inhabited by people with a predetermined agenda who come here to promote their own positions or more often attempt to harass those with an opposing view or deflect from the sense and direction of David’s articles. Given the subject matter and the extreme views that it promotes, it is probably unrealistic to expect much more than you see here. In many ways it is a tribute to David that his opponents have been compelled to expend such a sustained flow of energy here particularly as they have seen that their impact over a couple of years has been nil. Many have already fallen by the wayside and others will surely follow. However, their tactics have been noteworthy and offer a useful archive of the way that antisemites went about their work at this time using social media in their strategy. To this extent it may be wrong to dismiss the broad value of the comment section entirely. But as a place to view polite exchanges I would suggest that you are very much in the wrong place for that.

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