Sir Mick’s five straw man arguments in the row over Zionism

Sir Mick Davis lays claim to the moral high ground in his Jewish News column (3 July). But his history means no-one will be fooled. In previous columns he has used the language of our enemies, speaking of the risk of Israel becoming an “apartheid state”. He believes the government of Israel should make its policy decisions with as much attention to the impact on him as on the Israeli population (“And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel… I want them to recognise that”). And he fails to accept that sometimes live fire has to be used by the IDF defending the Gaza border.

Since he has never been elected to any position in the Jewish Community and no longer chairs the JLC, one wonders why the Jewish News has given him space. Especially for a piece that draws false equivalence between a ‘far Left’ in the Jewish Community and a ‘far Right’, in the process deploying enough straw men to form an army. He tells us that ‘far-right’ Jews responded to Kaddish For Hamas in Parliament Square “with abusive language, use of terms like “kapo”, issuing death threats and seeking to hound kaddish participants from their jobs.’ He doesn’t name these people or provide evidence of his accusations – because he can’t – they don’t exist:

Straw man #1. (Rabbi Schochet likened the outrage to ‘kapoism’ which is very different from naming individuals as ‘kapos’).

Straw man #2 is that the arguments ranging around Israel in Britain could damage “the long-term viability of Zionism”. Well let’s think about this. A country under existential threat for 70 years is threatened by arguments within the Jewish Community of the UK around the correctness of the IDF’s response to attempted terror incursions …………. Seriously?  The apocalyptic rhetoric continues: “vigorous debate could lead to the implosion of Jewish communities and the implosion of Zionism.” There’s a “debate” about whether it’s wrong to say Kaddish for Jew-hating terrorists?  Seriously? And “debate” can cause Zionism to “implode”?  How come, when there was just as  vigorous a debate between – for example – Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion?

Straw man #3:There isn’t much real discussion of the complex situation and the in fact quite tragic circumstances of the ordinary people of Gaza, the absence of anything resembling a peace process or the increasing tensions in the Israel-Diaspora relationship.”

What would Sir Mick wish us to discuss? The ‘ordinary people’ of Gaza live under the terrorist rule of Hamas. End of. Peace talks are stalled because Fatah in Gaza joined with Hamas and because the PLO has rejected all offers made by Israel. If Sir Mick has stated these facts, I must have missed it ………..

Apart from straw men, the piece is full of false moral equivalences. He accuses his critics of double standards: “You don’t live in Israel so keep your mouth shut, they say, without demanding silence from those they agree with, wherever they live”.  So because we do not live in Israel, we are forbidden from criticising his ‘apartheid state’ reference? It’s nonsensical.

Straw man #4: Of those who prioritise Israel’s security, he says “For them, expressing the most basic empathy for the Palestinians is taboo”.  Again this is the language of our enemies. How often in Electronic Intifada  have we seen the argument that those who support Israel’s Prime Minister are somehow “anti-Palestinian”? And apparently they are all Tommy Robinson supporters … Where’s the evidence? Has he commissioned an opinion survey of the Jewish Community? If so can we see the results?

Straw man #5: We are told that the increasing “polarisation” between “left” and “right”  “has taken hold in part because of a lack of Zionist leadership. And for Zionist leadership we look, naturally, to Israel but find little to inspire.”

Let’s put straw man #5 under the microscope. First, the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not appropriate in the Israel context. What is meant are ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ on security. The hawks (eg Bibi Netanyahu) support a Palestinian State but not at the price of an increased risk for Israel’s population. The doves (like Yachad) want the creation of a Palestinian State now regardless of security. How on earth can allegedly poor Israeli leadership be held responsible for an increase in the intensity of this debate in the Diaspora? If indeed it has increased  -where is the evidence, apart from the proliferation of blogs – and is this necessarily to be deplored?

Finally we get to the nub of Sir Mick’s thesis: The stalling of the peace process. Truth is, his piece is nothing more than a misplaced criticism of the government of Israel (“The language of peace and two states for two peoples has been taken off the agenda”).  Nothing about the rejectionism of the Palestinian leadership, the refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist, the joining of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza that put paid to the last set of peace talks. IT’S ALL ISRAEL’S FAULT ….

Now we go beyond straw men into the realm of selective facts: “In 1947, Israel’s founders accepted two states – they accepted that a 2,000-year-old dream could only become reality if land was traded for the certainty of statehood.” Yes, the UN partition plan was accepted by Israel’s founders BUT WAS REJECTED BY THE ARABS!

If Sir Mick wants to have a debate about the responsibility for the stalling of the peace process, I’m willing to take him on. In fact I proposed a debate seven years ago when, after expressing the desire for “a new global Jewish conversation”, he used his financial muscle to close down legitimate criticism of his comments. But he never responded. Let him come out from behind his straw army and have a debate – of which, in the case of others, he is so critical!

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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