Posted by: Lister | April 21, 2009

Zionism and Racism

There was a walkout during Ahmadinejad’s speech at a UN anti-racism conference:

British Ambassador Peter Gooderham, also among those who left, said “such inflammatory rhetoric has no place whatsoever in a United Nations conference addressing the whole issue of racism and how to address it.”

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, he said of the Iranian leader’s accusation of Israeli racism: “That is a charge we unreservedly condemn and so we had no hesitation at that point in leaving the conference hall.”

So, very naturally, Gooderham was asked “What is the difference between Zionism and Racism?” when he was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s Newsnight. Harry’s Place has a transcript which fits with my memory of the interview.

The difference amounts to: Zionism being a political movement relating to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in what is now Israel.

I don’t like the idea of an ethnic state. Obama’s inauguration speech had a great line:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

The lines of tribe shall soon dissolve. Let’s hope so. How out of place will states like Israel and Saudi Arabia look then?

My attitude to an ethnic state: It isn’t modern; It isn’t the democratic ideal.

The best thing about Britain, Australia, New Zealand, America, etc is that you don’t need the benefit of an accident of birth to be a member. But our taste for such shouldn’t be the end all. It’s possible to be pragmatic and recognise that some people aren’t going to forget about race — and you can’t force them too.

So it becomes a matter of what works and what can be accepted.

Do I ever complain about the Amish and their closed society? No — I’m not motivated to do so because (as far as I know) they do not force anyone to stay and the cost of not being able to join them is not one which seems to adversely affect too many people.

In Israel, it is a problem. The question that must inevitably be asked is: what are people willing to do/accept in order to maintain a Jewish majority in the country? In Britain, the answer is often “not much”. Some would like immigration limited. In Israel, of course, immigration being low is often considered a problem.

Wiki says Leicester is 58.3% white. The Guardian says 59.5%

In the city’s outdoor market yesterday, two women wearing burkas shopped for cut-price jewellery, elderly Caribbean ladies chatted, a man wearing a turban picked out a bunch of grapes, while a long-time local trader tried to persuade them to buy his produce. It was a fitting picture of a place that has earned the unofficial title of Britain’s most successful multicultural city, with a white population of only 59.5%. Predictions are that by 2020 it will become Britain’s first city where ethnic minorities make up the majority.

But for some, that is fuelling a growing resentment. Simon Wright, who has worked in Leicester market for 32 years, said: “In a few years time we are going to be playing ‘spot the white person’ round here.” The problem lay not with the longstanding minority ethnic population of Leicester, but with new immigrants, he said. “Asian people have been here for years, they have been born here. It’s not about skin, it’s about people who come into the country and take everything.”

[…] One mother of nine said she could understand why people supported the BNP. She added that she was on a waiting list for a six-bedroom house. “I’m not prejudiced but they are letting too many immigrants in, it’s stupid and it’s not going to be Britain no more.”

The article is about Leicester having 80 members of the BNP. Of course this isn’t a racist organisation — it exists only to ensure that Britain remains the homeland of… well… I’m not sure how they define it anymore. Such has been the pressure against defining Britishness in terms of race.



  1. I live in Leicester. Was born here. My family are all from Leicester. And we’re white.
    I love how inclusive we are. I love how multicultural we are. And given that our Indian neighbours are much more friendly than our white neighbours, I really couldn’t care less if it was “spot the white person”.
    The BNP are disgusting.

  2. When you speak about Israel, please present the facts correct. There are today people from 140 different nations living in Israel. Two million of them are Arab Israelis, most of them Muslims. How wrong the World is to label Israel as a racist state. Israel is to the rather opposite the most colorful nation on this planet. Since there are only 5,5 million Jews in Israel, and 200 million Arabs living around them, why on Earth support those who wants to destroy this small unique state? Within 60 years Israel have become a light to the Nations, with democracy, liberty, religious freedom and equality between men and women?

  3. Since more facts are requested…
    How about explaining the demographic threat, as it relates to Zionism?

    Israel has just moved immensely towards the right. Even if Lieberman is tried, convicted and sent to prison — does that mean the end of his party and the policies which made him popular?

    Uri Avnery, who I often link to, is also a Zionist. And I do not consider him racist. But, at the moment, his voice is a very smalll one in Israel.

    I think the difference between the two men is clear when you consider the important question: What are they willing to do to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel?

  4. This is a very interesting topic. The only way to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel, is that the 6 million Jews that live outside Israel, will come home. That will finally happen. For us who believe in God of Israel: He has promised that not a single Jew will be left behind, just before the return of the Messiah. First God will send fishermen, than He will send hunters, that will force His people home. When all nations start to persecute the Jews because they are Jewish, they will be force to leave. They will only have one place to go…

  5. Contrary to what I said above, the BNP are back to defining Britishness by ethnicity. Leopards and spots, I guess.

    Why is it so easy to spot the BNP as racists? They consider race to be important.

    The BBC:

    The BNP manual, leaked to an anti-fascist group and seen by the BBC, says that “BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist”.

    “These people are ‘black residents’ of the UK etc, and are no more British than an Englishman living in Hong Kong is Chinese.

    “Collectively, foreign residents of other races should be referred to as ‘racial foreigners’, a non-pejorative term… The key in such matters is above all to maintain necessary distinctions while avoiding provocation and insult.”

    The manual describes the BNP’s “ultimate aim” as the “lawful, humane and voluntary repatriation of the resident foreigners of the UK”.

    Commenting on the leaflet’s content, Mr Griffin told The Report on Radio 4 that although “in civic terms they are British, British also has a meaning as an ethnic description”.

    “We don’t subscribe to the politically correct fiction that just because they happen to be born in Britain, a Pakistani is a Briton. They’re not; they remain of Pakistani stock.

    “You can’t say that especially large numbers of people can come from the rest of the world and assume an English identity without denying the English their own identity, and I would say that’s wrong,” he added.

    “In a very subtle way, it’s a sort of bloodless genocide.”

    Notice how Griffin mixes “British” and “English”. So are the Welsh British?

  6. JSF links to some letters at the independent which were in response to an article by Howard Jacobson.

    From Jacobson’s article:

    Only racists think all disagreement must be racially motivated.

    […] For Zionism was never a single movement, and whatever isn’t a single movement cannot be said to have a single aim.

    I have some sympathy with that. As I’ve said before, Uri Avnery is a Zionist and he is at the forefront of calling for justice for the Palestinians.

    A couple of the letters:

    Israel’s agenda for the Palestinians

    Howard Jacobson is right (“A letter to an anti-Semite who isn’t”, 9 May). There are undoubtedly Israelis who would not hurt a fly. Ditto Palestinians. But he is obfuscating the main thrust of Zionism.

    Its founding father, Theodore Herzl, favoured the transfer of Palestinians. Israel’s first President, Chaim Weizmann, wanted Palestine “to be as Jewish as England is English and Poland is Polish”. How could that be achieved when 90 per cent of Palestinians were Muslim or Christian? So he leaped at the idea of transfer too.

    Israel’s first Prime Minster, David Ben Gurion, established a Transfer Committee in 1936 to study how transfer could be achieved. And he was angered in 1948 that commanders in Galilee failed to ensure the departure of its native population. And when the chance was there in 1948 to allow the Arab peasantry to return to their villages, the UN mediator found Israel’s leadership unyielding, “as hard as rock”.

    Today two-thirds of its Jewish electorate cannot accept the prospect that Israel’s growing minority might one day outnumber Jews. Transfer is openly discussed.

    Ahmedinejad’s words may be odious but they are a distraction. So is Holocaust denial. I share Jacobson’s disgust at both, but he should stop using them to distract us from Israel’s fell agenda for its captive people.

    David McDowall
    Richmond, Surrey


    Howard Jacobson, in his thoughtful meditation on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, refers to “Primo Levi’s greatest dread – that those who suffered would never be believed”. Ah yes, the Primo Levi who said: “Someone is always someone’s Jew, and the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis”, not a remark an Auschwitz survivor is likely to have made in jest.

    Thomas Tallon

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