Jonathan Hoffman
Jonathan Hoffman

My question to Jackie Walker: Setting the record straight

On 25th February there was a conference at UCL to mark the 50th Anniversary of the publication of a Noam Chomsky paper.  Jackie Walker was one of the speakers. I asked Walker (8:05 here) how she could claim to be an anti-racist when she does not accept the IHRA Definition of anti-semitism.

Jackie Walker and her supporters are absurdly suggesting that her responses “utterly destroyed” me (“Jewish anti Zionist Jackie Walker utterly destroys pro Zionist Jonathan Hoffman”) so I feel obliged to respond.

Let’s look at what she said.

Walker said that the IHRA Definition is a ‘new definition’ – then when I corrected her (it isn’t new, it is virtually identical to the EUMC Definition which has been around for years) told me I am not “showing her any respect”.

Then JW: “Anti-semitism has nothing to do with the Israeli State”.

But it is not up to Jackie Walker to define what Jews find offensive. The IHRA Definition is almost identical to the EUMC Definition. That was drawn up by Jewish NGOs working with representatives of all the governments of EU Member States.  It says (for example) that to compare the actions of Israeli Jews to Nazis is anti-semitic.  And to claim that Israel is a ‘racist endeavour’ is anti-semitic.

Jackie Walker would not dream of dictating to Muslims what is Islamophobic. Why does she presume to be able to tell Jews what is and is not anti-semitic?

JW: “I do not accept your premise that Israel is not a racist State.”

So she believes that Israel is a racist State  — a statement which is anti-semitic.

JW: “As a non-Jew you cannot buy land anywhere you like.”

To say this is to display ignorance of how land allocation works in Israel. 93.5% of the land is unavailable for private ownership; such land is sold neither to Jews nor to Arabs but is leased out by the Israel Land Administration.  ‘Thus, while it is true that Israeli law prevents the sale of state-owned land to Israeli Arabs, this alone is extremely misleading, for it is equally unavailable for sale to Jewish citizens of Israel’.  Israeli Arabs have equal access to state-owned land—four-fifths of the country. There are no restrictions on the purchase of private land in Israel. Israeli Arabs or non-citizens, including Arab foreigners, may freely purchase it.

JW: “You cannot use any road

Arab citizens of Israel can use the same roads as Jewish citizens. There are differences in Judea and Samaria (as between Israeli citizens and non-citizens) but that is purely for security purposes – a safeguard against terrorists.

JW: “I can choose whether I share that area [in a hospital] with non-Jews or not.“

Jews and non-Jews in Israel have equal access to hospitals and there is no separation. It is illegal to have separate areas for Jewish and non-Jewish patients. There are some reports of patients who request separation but government policy frowns on any hospital that acquiesces in such a request.

JW: “I will never accept that Israel is a necessary part of my identity as a Jew.”

Walker frequently claims to be Jewish. This seems to be on the basis of self-identification. No Rabbi or Synagogue would accept self-identification. Judaism passes through the mother (‘matrilinearity’) though there are some non-Orthodox synagogues now which accept members with a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. The other route is conversion to Judaism, which requires a course of learning under the supervision of a Rabbi. You might expect a mention of her faith in Walker’s book ‘Pilgrim State’. There is none. Neither is there any evidence that her parents were Jewish. Walker was born in August 1954 in Harlem. Her mother was Dorothy Walker, born in 1915 in Jamaica.  Dorothy was not Jewish; Walker’s maternal great-grandfather had a Methodist baptism.

Dorothy has stated under oath that Jackie was not fathered by her husband.  Dorothy met Jackie’s father, Jack, in October 1952. There is no mention in ‘Pilgrim State’ that he is Jewish. Walker herself states that she has a Catholic upbringing. There is no mention in the book that Walker converted to Judaism and she has never mentioned going through a conversion process. You might think this odd, given the importance she attaches to her ‘Jewishness’ in her discourse.

JW: “These people believe just like the Nazis that they have the ability to define who is a Jew or not.

This statement is a Jew/Nazi comparison and is therefore simply anti-semitic.  And who are “these people?” Jews? The vast majority of Jews who are Zionists? Again – it is not down to Jackie Walker to define ‘what is a Jew?’ The fundamental definition – that Judaism is passed down by the mother – has survived for 5000 years.

JW: “Our hard fought for vocabulary of liberation names the person as being the one who claims what their identity is, not a state and not you.”

Again – You cannot self-identify as a Jew. No Rabbi or Synagogue will accept that. To suggest otherwise demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Judaism.

About the Author
Jonathan Hoffman is a blogger who has written for United With Israel, CiFWatch (now UK Media Watch), Harrys Place and Z-Word.
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