Despite an earlier indication that he might already have signed off on this debate, Martin Shaw has come back for one more round. He should have left things where they were. To say that his arguments are getting no better would be charitably euphemistic. (The debate to this point may be followed via these links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)
[a] I think I may say without fear of contradiction that Martin has emphasized a need for evidence of anti-Semitism throughout this exchange. In my last post (6), I offered some: reference by the boycotters to the well-funded groups lined up against them - a theme, as Martin must know, with a long tradition behind it in anti-Jewish vilification and innuendo. What does he say about this evidence? Why, nothing at all.
[b] In the same ballpark... Martin asked me (5) whether I had personal experience of anti-Semitism on the left. I answered (6): before 2001, hardly any; since then, a few instances. Martin is both surprised and sorry about this, but says other Jewish friends report differently, and he still doubts that 'academic and left milieux... are saturated with anti-Semitism to the extent that this significantly explains the boycott campaign' (italics Martin's). I shall come back to 'saturated' directly. It deserves a paragraph of its own. But for anyone who is concerned with the collection of evidence, and indeed for anyone at all, it is a matter of elementary logic that if some of your friends don't have the same experience as others of them do, it doesn't mean there is no experience of that kind; a positive quantity isn't cancelled by the addition of a zero but remains exactly what it was.
[c] The denial of 'saturation to the extent that etc' is a retreat by Martin, but not avowed as such. To the best of my knowledge, no one is alleging that the boycott campaign is 'saturated' with attitudinal anti-Semitism - or dripping with it, or mainly fuelled or driven by it. And to my exact knowledge, I for my part have never claimed any such thing. At an earlier stage of the debate (2), I spoke merely of 'threads' of attitudinal anti-Semitism in the boycott campaign, as against anti-Semitism's being a potent force there; but I urged upon Martin, all the same, that in the context of left activism it wasn't a commendable impulse to say that anti-Semitism could be worse. His insistence throughout, though, has been that he wants evidence - quite properly so. To say now that what evidence there is, isn't evidence of 'saturation to the extent that etc' is a belittling move designed to avoid having to recognize what he earlier denied exists.
[d] In his ingenuity of riposte, Martin now discovers a new threshold for regarding a policy as prejudicially discriminatory. Although it targets Jews, the academic boycott, he says, 'need not target Jews as a whole'. This is a nonsense. Imagine a golf club that did not permit Jewish membership but allowed those who were members to bring Jewish guests. Imagine a racially divided society in which whites were dominant, public facilities for whites and non-whites were separate, and various forms of racial 'mixing' were legally prohibited. Then suppose that non-white visitors from outside the country were treated as honorary whites - for whatever reasons – and allowed to use the facilities normally prohibited to non-whites. Imagine a country in which women were treated as the inferiors of men, and excluded from certain public places, except that this exclusion did not kick in until women reached the age of majority, namely 21. Would these policies not be, in turn, anti-Semitic, racist and sexist, because they did not affect the relevant category (of unjustly discriminated-against person) 'as a whole'? The academic boycott targets Jews and Jews only, and on Martin's own admission there is no good justifying reason for it. Yet he blithely assures us there is nothing anti-Semitic here, this after professing (5) to accept the fact that practices as well as attitudes can be prejudicial - however, just in the given case he takes back that acceptance by insisting on the need for evidence of an attitudinal, rather than practice-related, kind. (And the evidence, when he is given some, he either evades or belittles.)
[e] Next, and worst, is what Martin has to say about the Warsaw ghetto and Gaza. It's an extreme comparison, and not one that he himself would have made 'since Jews in the ghetto were subjected to a confinement far more complete, brutal and life-threatening than that of Palestinians in Gaza, and of course it turned out to be a precursor to mass murder, which the Palestinians are not facing'. Very clear. All the same, Martin doesn't find the comparison 'objectionable in principle'.
The difference is one of degree, certainly a large one, and probable final outcome, rather than of kind.
If you wanted an example of having it both ways, you could not do better than this. He wouldn't make such a comparison, but... he gives it a clean bill of health.
In little over a year after the Warsaw ghetto was sealed, some 50,000 of its inhabitants had died of starvation, and in the end the population there was 'liquidated' - deported to the death camps. Despite this rather significant difference between the two historical experiences, Martin is content to validate the comparison on account of the similarity, confinement. It's an easy game to play. Watch. Palestinian liberation movements have made use of suicide terrorism against the inhabitants of Israel. Therefore, although it is an extreme comparison, their objectives being different from those of the planners and functionaries of Auschwitz, a comparison with Auschwitz is not 'objectionable in principle', because Palestinian terrorists and the architects of the so-called Final Solution respectively murder and murdered people not for anything they had done but for who they are and were. So, the Palestinian movements are like Nazis (do you see?), just like the Israeli government are like Nazis.
More sober intelligences avoid comparisons like these, because they understand the freight of moral and political meaning now carried by references to the Nazi policy of extermination, and its most notorious sites; and they understand the moral taint associated with saying of others that they are behaving like the Nazis. There is something specially ugly about this charge when levelled lightmindedly against Jews, two thirds of whose number in Europe were annihilated by the Nazi regime, one of the most criminal regimes in the history of humankind. Along with Holocaust-denial, this trope can be counted, indeed, as one of the newer themes of a very old hatred, and as a calumny to be set beside the traditional blood libel. But it may be expecting too much of him, given his developing standpoint in this debate, to ask Martin to see it as such. In the way of evidence of anti-Semitism, he blinks at nothing. If it ain't ranting, foaming-at-the-mouth Jew hatred, Martin becomes unShaw.
[f] Finally, the following passage of his I will not leave without an answer. He writes:
Coyly put: 'some Jewish socialists'. Martin neglects to say whether or not I am amongst these 'some'. I shall avail myself of a more direct language. He - Martin Shaw - here chooses a locution permitting, if not actively encouraging, the inference that I am one of those who use indiscriminate accusations of anti-Semitism to discredit criticism of Israeli policy over Gaza and more generally. This he bases on my characterization of the academic boycott, and on my reference to the Gaza/Warsaw ghetto comparison (6) as evidence of anti-Semitism. But my characterization of the academic boycott is not an attempt to block criticism of the Israeli government; it is an expression of opposition to a campaign that would penalize Israeli academics without just cause. And my reference to the Gaza/Warsaw ghetto comparison as evidence is also not a defence of Israeli policy; it is a view of that comparison as a politically vicious one. As the stickler for evidence he claims to be, Martin might have taken a little more care here than he has.
I find it shocking that 70 years after the confinement of Polish Jews in the ghettos, a self-proclaimed Jewish state should be content to confine another people in the manner that the Gazans are confined, and that some Jewish socialists should use indiscriminate accusations of 'anti-Semitism' to discredit the outcry against this and other policies of the Israeli state.