Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Friday, 27 March 2015

'Shame' by Dina Elmuti

It's rare these days to see writing so concise and eloquently truthful as this piece by Dina Elmuti

Some are beginning to say that Andreas Lubitz was a Jew. Was he? I don't yet know but, if he was, Dina's words will resonate all the more

Germanwings flight 9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a plane and committed mass murder, but he was not Muslim so the word ‘terrorist’ has not and will not be associated with his name and the horrific crime he committed. There was no Quran found in his locker, no last call to a friend named Muhammad, no donations to humanitarian causes in Palestine or Syria. As it stands, he’s just a regular ole’ white non-Muslim. A ‘troubled’ soul. Therefore, his character and name deserve every protection.
When mass murderers are called ‘mentally ill’, ‘depressed,’ ‘emotionally unstable,’ or ‘troubled,’ it’s so much more than semantics. It’s about affording certain people, and only those people, the right to depth and complexity and humaneness. In the eyes of the sensationalist media, everyone else is a two-dimensional approximation of human.


149 innocent people were murdered, including two babies and sixteen schoolchildren. My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Jews for this, Jews for that...

These were the Jews I first came across, the Jews to whom I returned after Year Zero and the thirty years of contented exile with my catholic wife and secular children, these were the Jews  - Zionist and anti-Zionist - in solidarity with Palestinians.

The Zionists, appalled at the treatment of Palestinians by Israel still clung in their hearts, to the Jewish state. “What’s done is done” they said “It was terrible but we must make the best of it”. For these Jews this meant a state for Palestinians alongside a state for Jews. That such a state would be weak, fragmented and under the guns of the Israeli military was for these Jews, well… better not think about it.

Nor need a memorial at Deir Yassin trouble them, or anyone else, too much. “Go build your memorial”, a future Israeli government might say and when built, could use it to show visitors, on their way to the Holocaust shrine at Yad Vashem, how wonderfully ethical is this Jewish state in its dealings with the Palestinians.

They were suspicious of course - entirely understandable for these peaceniks - of both me and of Deir Yassin with its problematic focus on the events of 1948 and its clear delineation between perpetrator and victim and this soft Zionist approach which later I characterised as I-just-wish-Israel-wouldn’t–behave–quite-so-badly-and-stop-embarrassing-me-in-front-of-my-friends was rooted in the belief in Israel as an essential good that had somehow gone bad.

The establishment of the state in 1948 (nobody at that time even mentioned the Nakba) was not only necessary, it was also good though at a pinch, these Zionists could concede that it had not been quite so good for the Palestinians. The Six-Day War (later, always referred to by me by its Arab designation: “The June War”) which had so thrilled me as a boy, was also good – a thoroughly defensive war - ‘pre-emptive’ was the designation of choice - which averted what undoubtedly would have been a second Holocaust. Even the occupation, while not an intrinsic good, was a necessary evil – a regrettable stopgap until the Arabs saw sense and recognised the Jewish state. Sure, things had gone wrong – but not through the fault of the Israelis, more the result of us Jews being somehow forced by the incalcitrance of our enemies to adopt repressive measures. Golda Meir said it best: "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill theirs.”

For these Jews, this was a conflict between equals – not in power for sure because even the most deluded of Zionists couldn’t entirely overlook the overwhelming military imbalance between the Israelis and the Palestinians - but a kind of moral equality, and this “sin of moral equivalence” as termed by Walid Khalidi and quoted by me in “Speaking the Truth to Jews” was at the very heart of this soft-Zionist discourse. The Israel-Palestine conflict, as they described it, was a ‘tragic’ struggle between two rights, two equal claims to the same piece of land.

Of course, after the peak in victimhood achieved by the Yom Kippur War with its near-miss, snatched-from-the-jaws-of-defeat victory, things had taken a definite turn for the ethical worse. Two Lebanese wars, Sabra and Shatilla and two Intifadas later, and by the time I came on the scene, these peaceniks were somewhat subdued and increasingly ready to grab at the Deir Yassin message which was radical enough to get them out of their moral rut but with its in-clear-sight-of-Yad-Vashem focus on the still-central place of Jewish suffering, did not entail the crossing of any red lines.

And what were these red lines? What was it that could not be discussed, let alone questioned and certainly not denied? These red lines were quite simply, the boundaries around the ‘specialness of Jewish suffering’ – and they were red lines that I was inexorably impelled to cross. But that was to come, for now, these Jews had welcomed me with my (largely taken from Marc Ellis) vision of some saving remnant of Jewish goodness, some dimmed but still eternal flickering flame, a Jewish goodness still rooted in the specialness of Jewish suffering. That is, until I began to question that suffering. Because it was precisely my stepping over those lines, my asking what was so special – and so unexaminable – about Jewish suffering that led to my estrangement from all those good Jews of Palestinian solidarity and to what, in my more portentous moments, I think of as my second, now permanent exile.

Still, I liked them, these Jews who were in the main warm-hearted and sincere in their albeit limited support for the Palestinian cause – and courageous too. Because, no matter how equivocal their support may at times have been, no-one can doubt their commitment to a cause that often cost them dear. Also, their Zionism, such as it was, was heartfelt and open. How many times in those years and in the years to come would I say “You know, I’d rather have tea with Ariel Sharon any day of the week!” And it was true. An open-hearted Jewish butcher was always infinitely more to my taste than a delusional Jewish weepie.

And I liked their company too, not surprising really, since these seemed to me to be the same Jews I’d known in Wembley Park. More educated, for sure, and way more articulate in their Zionism than the visceral, folk adherence of the Fisher family. But still, they were vital and noisy and they laughed a lot. For these Jews, just like those Jews of Wembley Park, all was community.

Not so their anti-Zionist colleagues. For these Jews, Israel was an abomination but… (and this is important) no more than a segregated Deep South or an apartheid South Africa. These folks favoured a ‘one-state solution’, but a one-state that must be democratic and secular. That such a state would be for a people and a place traditionally undemocratic and unsecular bothered them not a bit. And why should it? After all, for these, often Marxist Jews, Palestine was but part of a greater whole – a world to be made, and in their own image, democratic and secular. Because whilst the Zionist Jews simply wanted to build a utopia for Jews in Palestine, the anti-Zionists wanted to build a utopia for everyone and everywhere. And what these Jewish revolutionaries failed to mention and probably also to consider, was that in this secular, democratic utopia there would, on every corner, be a commissar who, also in their own image, just happened to be Jewish and who happened to know how every Palestinian - Jew and Arab alike - should live their lives.

For these Jews Deir Yassin was an unpardonable crime but (and again this was important) no more than any other colonialist, imperialist atrocity. Sure, they were delighted to tell and re-tell the story of the Nakba – anything that criminalised the Zionist project was music to their ears – but what was all this about Jewish responsibility? What Jewish responsibility? There was no Jewish responsibility because, other than as a vague ethnicity that spoke Yiddish, told wry, self-deprecating jokes, liked gefilte fish and (though they would never speak of this) liked to lend themselves to all kinds of revolutionary activities, in effect, there were no Jews – at least not in any collective sense.

Cold and unkempt, the wild-haired, strident females and the goateed, feminised males, these were like no Jews I’d met before. This was the Jewish intelligentsia and no better for that, since these barefoot intellectuals were not so much educated as over-educated. Lifted out of an essential mediocrity only by the fact of their being Jews, this lot had heard and read far more than ever they could understand.

And what a creed they had concocted for themselves. Circumcised to a man, married to other Jews, still they swore blind their Jewishness meant nothing to them or, more pertinently, had no bearing whatsoever on their ideological and political activities.

But if their separation from their ideological Jewishness was no more than a sham, the same could not be said of their alienation from their Judaism – at least, that’s how it appeared. This lot, whose fellow ideologues had in Yiddish sung the Internationale as they burned churches in Spain, despised all religion, yet their attitude to their own religion, or more accurately the religion of their fathers, was strangely ambivalent. On the surface they loathed it, yet these same fierce atheists so often married other Jews, circumcised their sons and, in the final analysis, had themselves buried in consecrated ground. I recall one of them, a poor man dying of cancer who was married to a Mennonite wife and who it was said had taken the Mennonite faith. He died and I overheard one of his comrades confiding to another that on his deathbed, and at his request, kaddish was surreptitiously said.

In the place of the Jewish God they so despised, these Jews had placed a multitude of other gods. Master of the Universe was Karl Marx himself and from this greatest of deities sprang a plethora of lesser gods, a mass of ‘isms’ to suit all tastes: Feminism, Freudianism, secularism, multi-culturalism - the list went on, each with its own rebbe and each adhered to and enforced as might be the word of God Himself. It was all there in the house of one of these Godless Jews I visdited. High in a lit cabinet, looking for all the world like a sefer torah in a Holy Ark was a multi-volume, early edition of The Complete Works of Karl Marx. This was a faith that brooked no heresy. A Zionist Jew might disagree with me, many would have nothing to do with me, but only an anti-Zionist, Marxist Jew would endeavour to silence me.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Kosher Nostra

My recent post about that jolly rogue Anthony Dennison raises some interesting questions about the relationship between the very many upstanding Jews and their far fewer, but somewhat less-upstanding, fellow Jews.

In a post about London Jewish gangster Jack Spot I told how as a child, I'd sometimes overhear my mum and dad talking about this violent and unsavory man. Sure, they disapproved of him (my parents were thoroughly decent people) but there was affection there too. You see, Jack Spot was a bit of a legend in my family and in many other Jewish families of the time because the fact was that for us second and third generation London Jews, this Jewish roughneck was a bit of a Robin Hood.

The same is true of American Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky, a towering gangland figure against whom a little Brit like Jack Spot was small potatoes. Lansky was big-time; a true king of the underworld yet he was celebrated for being honest, somewhat cerebral and personally non-violent. Was he really? I doubt it, but we Jews thought so and by now you must know that if we Jews think something, you have to think it too.

Another one was  a real enough character who made a fictional  appearance in my favorite Jewish author Philip Roth's book The Plot Against America. In this book which imagines a 'Nazi' takeover of America, Jewish street resistance is led by local Jewish gangster  'Longy' Zwillman. Zwillman did indeed exist in Roth's native Newark and, bless my soul, the Jews of New Jersey still miss him. 

So what, apart from their Jewishness and their unsavory ways, did all these Jewish gangsters have in common? Well, all of them, without exception were 'good for the Jews'. Jack Spot, as he'll tell you himself here specialised in cutting with a razor the face of anyone who defaulted in their payments to Jewish traders. In his younger days, Meyer Lansky did much the same and in later life his Zionist activities were legendary. Finally the real Abner 'Longy' Zwillman had strong Jewish connections  and just like Roth's character "...was a hero to the Jewish people in Newark and Irvington ...because he would form this group .......who would throw these stink bombs in the meetings of the Bund” — the German-American pro-Nazi movement — and wait for them to run outside and be waiting for them with bats, sticks, and fists and beat the crap out of them.”
You see, the truth is, we Jews loved Jack Spot, we loved Meyer Lansky and we loved  'Longy' Zwillman too. And why? Simple. We loved them because they loved us.   

So, taking all this into consideration, is it any wonder that the North-West Friends of Israel and the Jewish Chronicle have no problem with the merely 'dishonest' Anthony Dennison

But "Ah...", I hear you say, "What's so noteworthy about Jews - poor, outsiders and victims - admiring those who break the law to look after their own? After all, is this not the story of the Italian mafia every bit as much as it is the Jewish mafia?"

It is indeed. Except that Jews are no longer poor, Jews are no longer outsiders and Jews are no longer victims -  It's just that in our hearts and minds we are, and will forever be - poor, outsiders and victims - and we will continue to love and support anyone and everyone - no matter what their morals - who is 'good for the Jews'.

Such is our Jewishness. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

This explains a lot...

I'm always interested in the stories we Jews tell ourselves in order to justify some the awful things we do. 
This poem, I think by one Ran Shirdan, explains a lot.

If you are Jewish.
If you are Israeli.
If anyone asks you to explain Israel's actions.

If anyone debates how Israel's situation should be handled.

How we should act.
What we should do.
What we shouldn't do.
Or questions our motives.
Or accuses.
Or judges.
Or condemns.
Or pries.

Show them this picture.

This picture of nail scratches of the victims who were suffocated to death inside an Auschwitz gas chamber.
This is our history.
This is what has shaped us. Our existence.

This is what we fight against every day so history doesn't repeat itself.

Our memory is what makes us smart.

Our memory is what makes us strong.

Our memory is what differentiates us.

This picture, we get it.

We feel it.

It's eerie to us like it could be to no other.

We get it like others cannot.

We get the correlation between this photo and the now.

And we say, "Never Again."

Never Again will be terrorized.

So if anyone asks.

Or debates.

Or questions.

Or accuses.

Or judges.

Or condemns.

Or pries.

Only remember: Israel does not have to justify to the world its actions, and neither do we.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A Very Kosher Dishonesty

It’s now well known that the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) was pressured by Zionist lobbyists North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI) to cancel a concert by internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. What is less well known is that the co-chair and spokesperson for NWFOI is one Anthony Dennison (Mr Dennison’s name and role in the organisation may be confirmed here). These machinations by the NWFOI and the leading role played by Mr Dennison were duly reported by the Jewish Chronicle

So far, so… well, if not exactly good, certainly understandable.

Less understandable is the fact (not mentioned by the JC) of Mr Dennison’s documented and well-known dishonesty. Because of his dishonesty, Anthony Dennison, once a lawyer closely associated with the no win, no fee scam was found by the High Court to be unworthy to practice law and was duly struck off

Everyone knew about it. The BBC knew about it, the Solicitor’s Journal knew about it, The Daily Telegraph knew about it, and The Manchester Evening News knew about it so it’s safe to say that the NWFOI and the JC certainly knew about it.

But Mr Dennison is not only an aficionado of white-collar dishonesty; in fact he’s not at all averse to getting down and dirty because it seems that Anthony Dennison is also a bit of a football hooligan. Perhaps you remember the incident from October 2014 when Mr Dennison’s all-Jewish football team (Maccabi) was about to be wiped out in a match (9:2 with only 10 minutes left to play) and Mr Dennison took his young players off the pitch claiming ‘anti-Semitic abuse.’ The fledgeling anti-Semite was duly disciplined but Dennison was also later banned and fined by the FA - for his "foul and abusive behaviour". And yes, the incident was duly reported by the JC here and here

So are we entitled to conclude that Anthony Dennison is both dishonest and a hooligan? And if we are, is it then surprising that, when orchestrating the pressure on the RNCM, he should call to his support the now implicated in the Jeffrey Epstein under-age sex scandal none other than fellow discredited lawyer Alan Dershowitz?

Leaving aside whether we should allow such a man as Anthony Dennison to bully a British artist and academic and a beloved cultural institution, there is another, wider question to be asked: How come a supposedly respectable lobbying organisation like NWFOI is happy to have as a prime representative a man known to be dishonest and also an occasional hooligan? And further, how come the premier Jewish media outlet representing mainstream Jewish opinion in this country has nothing to say on this matter?

How come?

Well, for us Jews, when something is legitimate and acceptable we say it is kosher. So, in the case of Anthony Dennison we have to admit that some dishonesty is well…kosher!